Transformational Leadership in Education: A Review of Existing Literature.

JurisdictionDerecho Internacional
AuthorAnderson, Matthew
Date01 January 2017

School systems face unprecedented local, state, and federal accountability for school performance and student achievement. School systems and schools themselves have begun to function like business organizations with management complexities and the requirement of bottom-line results. School leadership is a critical component for strong performance and student achievement. There is concern over whether school leaders have the proper management skills, leadership styles, and approaches necessary to ensure effective operational performance of schools. Education leaders may benefit from training and development in transformational leadership styles proven to enhance performance in business organizations and educational settings.

With these concerns in mind, the purpose of this paper is to identify and discuss relevant research insights about the changing environments of schools and school systems, performance and achievement accountability, and the need for exceptional school leadership to facilitate needed school change. This analysis of current research will allow readers to understand what is already known about the topic and what facets require continued study. As the quality of leadership styles is proven to facilitate change, enhance employment commitment and performance, and improve overall organizational performance and approaches in most fields, concerns over the leadership ability of education personnel has grown in importance within education research. Transformational leadership is the leadership style most researchers feel is appropriate for today's schools. Transformational leadership is characterized by a leader who works with subordinates to identify needed change, create a vision to guide the change through inspiration, and execute the change in unison with committed members of a group. (1)


As the literature review is the key component of this research, identifying relevant studies had to be a systematic process. To capture as many relevant published articles as possible, this study consulted the Ebscohost and Proquest search engines, defining its parameters with the keywords Transformational leadership style, Transformational leadership behavior, Teacher perceptions of leadership, and Transformational leadership in schools. "Transformational leadership" and "transformational leadership in schools" were the main keywords and phrases that generated vast amounts of pioneering peer-reviewed studies. A review of articles published between 1990 and 2003 reveal that there have been more research studies done on transformational leadership than on all of other leadership theories combined. (2) This study's analysis of transformational leadership began by examining the early and pioneering research of the leadership style within business organizations the proceeded to explore research of transformational leadership style in educational settings. The aim of this paper is to synthesis existing research, highlighting key studies, and to offer suggestions for additional areas of research.

Education Leaders and the Demand for New Leadership Approaches Is school leadership adequate? Effective school leadership is critical to overall school success, yet a 2014 report conducted by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute analyzing the recruitment, selection, and placement of school principals, suggested far too many principals lack the capacity to lead effectively. (3) A decade of research suggested training and preparation programs for principals failed to instill them with the skills sets needed for pivotal leadership which is necessary for producing meaningful school change while being held more accountable for student growth, achievement, and outcomes. (4) Principals are held accountable for leadership tasks such as hiring, developing, and evaluating teachers, supporting struggling students, community outreach, managing budgets, and managing infrastructure. (5) In addition, education leaders are now faced with the same tasks managers face in the business and private sector, such as setting strategic planning goals and developing staff. (6)

Education has become business and schools have become social organizations conducting daily business. The business nature and complexity of tasks and responsibilities prompt even more concern over whether or not principals and educational leaders are taught the fundamentals of management and practicing good leadership skills. (7) As schools face an environment that has become business oriented and managerially complex, school leaders may benefit from training and development in leadership styles proven to enhance the success of both business organizations and educational settings. Enter the transformational leadership style.

Transformational Leadership

James MacGregor Burns coined the term transformational leadership in his book, Leadership, to define a process where leaders and followers work together to advance motivation and morale. (8) According to Burns, transformational leadership is a style of leadership that transforms follower attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, to a higher realm of motivation where the leader inspires followers to be motivated to rise above and beyond current levels of achievement and performance to even higher levels of achievement and performance. (9) In business organizations, transformational...

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